Choosing Justice: A Quiz from J A Kerley

Category: News
cartoon_villain_pic2A sociopath has murdered a family by locking them in their home and setting it ablaze. Thankfully, the law is looming and justice is at hand. Should the villain …


 A. Be shot dead by a police sniper?


 B. Blunder into a pit of agitated cobras with no escape?


 C. Be imprisoned for life with zero hope of parole?




First off, there are no wrong answers, so think a moment about your rationale. Now let’s consider our choices.

Answer A – I suspect most folks, me included, find this conclusion unsatisfying. Although death is likely what the madman deserves, immediate death seems more an escape than a punishment. Nasty people need to know the game is lost and the end is nigh. I want rumination before the reaper arrives.


Answer B – Cobras? That’s rather nifty. We might even add a few large, round stones to the pit, the killer having to hop from stone to stone to avoid being bitten. Should we butter the stones?


Answer C – True, the killer lives. But depending on the character, this result can be even more satisfying than Answer B. Sociopaths are, by and large, cruel puppeteers. Lock the killer in a box with no one to control-solitary confinement, say-and the torment might be worse than death. Facing decades alone with the vacuity of a conscienceless mind and no one to manipulate, could this not be true justice? (If you disagree, the snakes are still waiting.)


I don’t often yell at books. When I do, it’s invariably because the author has allowed an odious villain to die immediately. Dispatching a child molester or serial torturer in an instant counters both rational and gut-level needs for punishments that fit hideous crimes.


cobra-snake1Inflicting pain should buy pain, preferably with interest. I’ve tossed nasty folks into the sea with nothing to swim toward but the horizon, thrown them off tall cliffs so they can reflect on the way down, and yes, slammed hubris-laden monsters into prison forever, when that’s what they fear the most.


I actually come to detest vile characters while creating them, thinking, Laugh now, because you’re going to get yours, dog-breath. I also value redemption and occasionally permit a character to re-purchase his or her soul with the coinage of a truly good and selfless act.


This is not to say every malefactor in my stories gets a comeuppance: Foul creatures sometimes escape in service of the plot or further books. But if someone is uncompromisingly vicious and manages to get cornered or caught, well … the end ain’t gonna be pretty.


I can, however, guarantee it will be just.

 I have one more question for Killer Reads justice aficionados: What’s yourherlastscream1 favorite-ever fictional slice of justice served to a villain?

Simply comment on this article and the five best answers will win a copy of J A Kerley’s new terrifying novel, Her Last Scream.

12 thoughts on “Choosing Justice: A Quiz from J A Kerley

  1. What great ideas, there is much food for thought here and really too much choice as nothing is bad enough for this madman!!

    I would go for imprisonment first to include humiliation, bullying and torture from inmates followed by being buried alive. This person should have a slow end.

    Alternatively, a supernatural end where he would be going to hell with the devil and his minions to serve them for ever more in the inferno of hell!

  2. Ooh, there are so many…and many that I’m sure aren’t even jumping immediately to mind. Sticking to books, I’ll go with a very recent one from Matthew McBride’s debut, FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER. Guess this is kind of a spoiler, so I’ll be somewhat vague. Let’s just say it involves one of the baddies getting his comeuppance via chainsaw. While still alive. Slowly. Methodically. Yeah, it’s cold blooded…but very deserved.

  3. I guess my favorite slice of fictional justice would have to be from Clive Barker’s Coldheart Canyon. It’s the scene where the dead finally get their hands on Katya Lupi, and completely tear her to pieces. It is so graphically written that it made me squirm and that’s saying something. …ugh.


  4. I think my favourite is in A Clockwork Orange, when Alex is shut in the bathroom and forced to hear Beethoven. Even though he’s the narrator and thus the protagonist, it was still nice to see him punished for his crimes, and punished by being forced to hate something he loved.

  5. When Jack Reacher breaks the necks of the serial killer and his evil politician father in THE AFFAIR by Lee Child……very satisfying and JUSTIFIED.

  6. I agree that the worst of the worst should suffer the most. Take away what they live and breathe for, that should be their punishment.

  7. I think anything that involves the persons worst fears is best, plus i also love the way the Vampires die in the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, any unique way is great, how authors come up with them is beyond me.
    My worst fear is snakes, i live in Australia so we have most of the deadliest ones here, so going out in a pit of snakes would be my worst fear.

  8. I think the way Hannibal Lecter punished Dr. Cordell Doemling was quite clever and than he deserved how her sister killed him.
    Then there’s Dexter and the serial killers…
    i do too think that some people deserves the worst but who should punish them? I mean, who is capable of torture even when we’re talking about monsters?

  9. I think stapling meat to the villain and unleashing a horde of ravenous weasels would certainly return the pain and hardship they have inflicted upon other people.

  10. A superb compendium of punishments. A fan of Burgess, I’m especially partial to The Clockwork Orange solution, but meat and weasels has panache. Perhaps with Frank Zappa’s ‘Weasels Ripped My Flesh’ playing in the background. –JAK

  11. i would choose imprisenment. obviously death would be the best answer however by imprisoning them you can learn from them by doing interviews and studies ect. so if there is another mad man out there then at least you could have some idea as to what has driven them to do what they are doing therefore giving away clues as to where they are and so on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *